By: Michael Conroy
There are many words one might use to describe this looming Eagles’ off-season. If you use the word “rebuild,” Eagles’
General Manager Equipment Supervisor, Howie Roseman may just leap from behind nearby foliage and strangle you. No, “rebuild” isn’t quite the term I would use either. For the sake of accuracy, I’d say the team, and organization for that matter, are due for a “fleshing out.”
How we describe what’s happening in the coming months is not overly important. The simple fact is this franchise has serious needs at key positions from the field to the front office. The question heading into the spring isn’t whether or not these needs will be addressed, but how and to what degree?
A few years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles felt that they were a few needs away from a championship and went “All-in” to assemble a Dream Team that would haunt Philly fans for years. Will that past misstep affect the choices made now? Will Chip Kelly, the new power in personnel, mortgage the future to acquire his quarterback? Trying to predict the answers to these questions is an exercise in futility, but then so is betting the NFL and a few people seem to enjoy that anyway. So I’ll propose a few changes of my own. Whether these come to fruition or not is inconsequential, so long as they give you even the faintest cause to pay closer attention.
It’s hard to tackle the Eagles’ roster problems before discussing the open seat at General Manager. In reality, though, this may be the least important decision yet to be made overall. Whoever fills that empty seat in the Philadelphia front office will be, effectively, a lame duck from the outset. There’s simply no way, with the recent battles Chip Kelly has fought over personnel, that the 3rd year coach hires anyone that might challenge his vision for the team. This is a pivotal draft for Kelly’s prospects not just as Head Coach of the Eagles, but at the professional level whatsoever. It’s difficult to imagine Chip placing that responsibility in anyone’s hands but his own. I can’t say I’d want it any other way were I in his position. So the decision to bring on as General Manager will be a lateral move at best.
The second most pressing decisions facing the Eagles concern Cary Williams, Brandon Graham, Jeremy Maclin, and Lesean Mccoy. While only two of the aforementioned players are actually free to walk this off-season, Mccoy and Williams have contracts with cap numbers that demand revision.
It would be difficult for the team to retain all four of these players, but not impossible. That being said, it would be best for both the team and Graham if the two part ways. The former Wolverine has truly blossomed into an effective 3rd down player recently, but the Eagles have struggled to find a place for him in other game situations. Brandon Graham will be looking for starter money this off-season and will likely have suitors. This is a case where I like the player, but hate the fit.
For Williams and Mccoy, the situation is similar but their respective outlooks could not be further apart. It is clear that Cary Williams is not entirely happy here in Philly. He also makes much more money than he would command elsewhere. That being said, he’s a solid replacement level corner in today’s secondary-starved NFL and adds value (however little) to a defense that cannot afford to go backwards in 2015. In the end, it would be wise to allow Cary Williams to play out the final year of his ridiculous contract and then move on.
As for Lesean Mccoy, some restructuring is in order. His current contract has a few variables for the 2014-15 season, but any way you slice it, he’s due an inordinate sum of money. The 26 year-old running back has openly admitted he is willing to restructure his deal, which is a good start, but he’s not going to take any drastic pay cut during his prime years. The team would eat upwards of $4 million in dead money if they decided to move on from their star running back right now. In the end, it makes sense to bring Lesean Mccoy back and work with him to get his cap number down over the next 2 seasons, pushing those more difficult conversations further down the road.
The primary dissuading factor in the decision to re-sign Jeremy Maclin is a man named Riley Cooper. His cap hit is set to soar to a baffling $4.8 million in 2015; an outrageous number when compared to his contributions on the field this season. If the Eagles re-sign Maclin, they will likely have sown upwards of $50 million into a pair of wideouts that, more often than not, amount to a league-average pairing.
It’s important to remember that Maclin also just turned in his first full 16 game campaign of elite play in the NFL. Is there any guarantee that Jeremy Maclin doesn’t take a step back next year? In fact, a regression following a career year is probably the more likely scenario. Couple that prospect with that of an expensive under performing running back and you’ve got a situation that would make Marty Hurney proud. Ultimately, I believe in Maclin and so do the decision-makers in the team’s front office. A deal will get done for better or worse.
Some other minor targets to retain include Chris Polk, Cedric Thornton and Casey Matthews. Thornton leads the way in this pending free agent group. His run stopping ability is an important component for any team that plays in the same division as Dallas. Matthews has finally come into his own as a role-player in the line-backing core and Polk showed flashes this year, gaining tough yards in big spots for the Eagles. If he can be retained at a reasonable cost, he should be.
There are many pressing issues facing the Philadelphia Eagles. The team has uncertainty at Quarterback, and severe deficiencies in the secondary. The offensive line is another year older in 2015. Could the Eagles get younger in that area? These concerns will be addressed in Free Agency and the draft. We’ll dive into both in the coming weeks.